Gilgamesh then returns to Uruk, where after purifcation he attracts Ishtar’s romantic attentions. Then the goddess offers to be his lover, he refuses, citing a list of her former lovers as an excuse. Though Gilgamesh (unlike Theseus) does not return with the monster’s head, the plot is familiar: Hero enters the wilderness or labyrinth where he faces a monster who brings out the hero’s most heroic (and often violent) aspects. Changed, the Hero then earns the love of the goddess, whom he then insults (or abandons), getting instead her curse. He returns to the outer world (usually a city) cold and famous. What is it about the meeting of monsters that brings out the worst in heros? One wonders: After the monster at the heart of the labyrinth is slain, what is born? Death and rebirth seem to lie at the heart of the labyrinth’s mysteries, but whose death and whose rebirth isn’t always easy to discern.

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